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How To Make a Quick and Easy 1920s Party Dress

I’m going to a Murder Mystery party in a few weeks, and the theme is Babes, Bootleg and Bodies. We’re all being asked to dress in the style of the 1920s.
I don’t have a pattern, but the styles of the 1920s are based on a simple, straight sillouette. It’s the fantastic beading that makes a dress stand out. Well, I haven’t the money or time for fancy beading, but I can eyeball a dress and figure out the basic pattern. And since I’m not the only one to ever need a pattern for a dress like this I thought I’d share the quick and dirty directions that I came up with. I’m not a professional costume designer, and these directions are basic, so I’m not guaranteeing a perfect end product. But maybe these will help.

First, get some measurements.

A = widest part of your body + 3 inches divided by 4.

On me, that’s my bust. For you it might be your hips. So if your widest is 43 inches, add 3 (a total of 46) divide that by 4 and you have 11.5. Your “A” measurement is 11.5.

B = Distance from top of shoulder to where the hem will be (usually about the knee) + 3.

If your measurement from the top of your shoulder to your knee is 42 inches, add 3 for a total of 45. Your “B” is 45.  This determines how much fabric you need. Multiply B by 2. You will need 90 inches, or 2.5 yards.

C = Distance around arm, divided by 2.

Measure from the top of your shoulder, through the armpit, and back to the shoulder, snugly.  If this is 20 inches, divide by 2. Your “C” is 10.

D = Distance from the center back neck to end of shoulder.

Find the little bony bump at the base of the back of your neck and measure to where you want the outside of the shoulder of the dress to be. On mine, I wish I would have not gone so far out. I may trim that and re-sew it if I have time.

E = Top of Shoulder to Neckline

Measure from the top of your shoulder, down your chest to where you want neckline of your dress to hit. In the 1920s some necklines were very deep, some were very modest. Please yourself.

Cut the Dress Out

  1. Fold your fabric lengthwise, selvedge to selvedge (that’s the woven sides, not the cut ones) with the right side of the fabric inside.
  2. Fold again crosswise (in quarters) so the cut ends are together. It’s like folding paper to make paper dolls. If you haven’t done this before, it might be a good idea to get a piece of paper and practice the next few steps in miniature.
  3. The fabric should now equal measurement “A”.  The top fold will be the shoulders of the dress. Use a pin or chalk to mark the shoulder fold. Open the fabric again so
    the selvedges are still together

Mark and Cut Out Neckline

  1. See the pin or chalk mark you just made? Let’s call that the shoulder. Measure 1 inch above the shoulder and use a pin or chalk to mark the back of the neck.
  2. Measure 6 inches away from the fold. Mark.
  3. Measure “E” from Shoulder. Mark.

Now you can decide if you want a V neck, a square neck or a round neck. Use c
halk or pins to trace neck and cut. yay! You have a neck hole! Re-fold the fabric again in quarters so the cut edges are together.

      Mark and Cut Out Dress Body

  1. From body fold, measure along shoulder fold the distance of “D”. Mark. (actually, since you’ve alread ycut out your neckline, you have to estimate where the body fold would be. Shouldn’t be too hard tho) From shoulder fold, measure down “C”. Mark.
  2. Measure “A” from fold near the cut edges , mark. Continue to mark “A” at 6 inch intervals as you go up. When you get to “C”, curve inward until you meet “D”.
  3. Cut out dress.

Sew the Dress

  1. Use seam binding (purchased or self-made) to bind the neck edge.
  2. Make a narrow hem in arm opening.
  3. Fold the dress right sides together and sew the side seams.
  4. Turn up 1 inch hem and sew.

Note: I chose to do an asymmetrical hemline.

Basically, you’re done now.  You can go a step further and fancy your dress up with extra stuff if you want.

Embellish the Dress

Here’s the fun part. Let your imagination go. Make a sash. Add glitz. Fringe, beads, feathers, braids and trims were all used lavishly in the 1920s. Here are a few pics of actual dresses from the 1920s to give you some ideas.





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